For healthy cooking despite a chaotic schedule; for a stress-free feast; for something simply delicious—you need a slow cooker. This amazing little kitchen appliance can create Nutrisystem-approved meals and healthy sides, with little to no supervision. It’s designed to simmer food at a low temperature, while you go about your day. Four, eight, or even 10 hours later, your house smells amazing and your meal is ready, warm and waiting to be eaten.
Some slow cookers come with just low, medium and high settings, while others offer a keep-warm option. Newer models have electronic controls and digital timers so you can pre-program how long your meal has to cook; and when it’s done, it automatically switches to the keep-warm temp. (Prices can range from about $30 to more than $300, depending on the size of the slow cooker and its features.)
As if the whole healthy cooking with minimal prep wasn’t enough, here are five more reasons to get a slow cooker:
1. Slow cookers save time and effort.
Between work, the kids, errands and chores, finding time for healthy cooking can be challenging. Cue the slow cooker. For many dishes, the only effort is in a little bit of prep—cutting vegetables, for example, or mincing garlic. Then all the ingredients are placed in the slow cooker, and the machine works its culinary magic while you’re at work or watching your kids’ baseball game. For an easy-prep dinner that’s loaded with flavor, try the Slow Cooker Artichoke Chicken with Potatoes and Sundried Tomatoes.
2. You can use it all year long.
Slow cookers aren’t just for winter soups and stews. You can make side dishes (like Slow Cooker Garlic Herb Mashed Faux-tatoes), fillings for
tacos, and even delicious breakfast bowls! And in the summer, instead of cranking up the oven and temperature in your already-hot kitchen, you can use a slow cooker, which gives off very little heat. From meatballs to applesauce, here are 6 Slow Cooker Recipes for every season.
3. It trims fat from a meal.
The traditional way to prepare a fajita is to sauté the meat in a skillet of oil. But with a slow cooker and this recipe, you can skip that step and cut down on added calories and fat, without sacrificing flavor: Slower Cooker Chicken Fajitas are made with salsa, beans and spices for a whole lot of deliciousness wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Another recipe to add to your menu? Instead of searing the ground turkey in oil, just toss it in a slow cooker with tomatoes, peas, zucchini, tomato paste, squash and seasoning and let it simmer. A creative “pasta” dish, made much healthier.
4. You’ll have lots of healthy leftovers.
Even if your slow cooker recipe requires a little bit of work ahead of time—like browning brisket for this Slow Cooker Brisket Chili—it’s worth it when you get six servings out of the meal. And this Slow Cooker Kale and Meatball recipe yields 18 meatballs—enough to freeze for future dinners when you’re short on time.
5. You can even make desserts.
That’s right—satisfyingly sweet and healthy treats, courtesy of your slow cooker. This Apple Cranberry Crumble features a delicious mix of tangy Granny Smiths, fresh cranberries, maple syrup, cinnamon, rolled oats and other ingredients for only 155 calories per serving. And when you really want to indulge, without any guilt, try this Slow Cooker Pumpkin Rice Pudding. This creamy dessert is made with brown rice, unsweetened vanilla almond milk and lots of spices—serve it topped with maple syrup and pumpkin seeds for an extra bit of sweetness and crunch.